Time is a funny thing. One moment you’re months away from the date you’ll get on a plane and start your world trip and the next, that day is actually there! Thursday, February 7th was the day that we’ve had marked in our calendars for months already. And for a while, it felt like that day would never come. But after we’ve left our home, things started moving rather rapidly and before we knew it, we were packing our bags for a trip without an end-date.
When we checked-in our luggage at Schiphol Airport, it was time for the hardest part of leaving on a world trip: saying goodbye to our families. It was tough, but it’s part of the deal and hopefully, some of them will visit us during our travels. Luckily we knew we had some familiar faces waiting for us at Kathmandu airport: our closest friends already flew out earlier and we couldn’t wait to see them in Nepal.
Welcome to Nepal
After a decent flight with a 4-hour layover in Abu Dhabi, we arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport. We immediately notice things work, well let’s say, different in Nepal. We’ve already got our visa in Amsterdam, so we can skip the long line for that, but there isn’t really a counter for tourists who already have a visa. Nobody in the airport is wearing any sort of occupational clothing, so recognizing who works at the airport is kinda hard. Luckily a guy came up to us telling us to go stand in the line that says ‘Nepali passports only’. Well if you say so… We got some weird looks from Nepali people in line, but it worked out after all and after collecting our luggage we can finally meet our friends and explore Kathmandu!
The first thing that happens when we step out of the airport? It starts raining! Even before one of the many locals cling on to us trying to carry our bags or get us into their taxi (for too much money). Luckily it doesn’t take long before we see our friends Valerie and Govinda, who welcome us with Nepali flower necklaces (which smell awesome btw) and get us into a car that drives us to our hotel in the middle of touristy Thamel. The drive to Thamel takes about 30 minutes (unless there’s a lot of traffic) and there’s so much to see along the way. Coming from the Netherlands, where everything is strictly organised, driving thru the streets of Kathmandu is kind of a strange sensation. Everybody is almost bumping into each other every crossroad and there aren’t really any rules. I’m just glad I don’t have to drive these crazy streets…
After arriving in our hotel in the middle of Thamel, we feel like some food. And what better way to start your trip to Nepal than by eating momos? We get to a nice restaurant, order a few plates of the Nepali dumplings and a few beers and say cheers to our first night in Nepal and the start of our world trip.
A relatively quiet street in Thamel, early February
We soon learn that Kathmandu is a very dusty city (hence it’s nickname: Dustmandu). Getting dust masks is no luxury, while it only helps a bit. Both Juul, Valerie, and Govinda got ill anyway.
Govinda’s brother Gopal lives in Kathmandu with his family and they invited us over to make momo’s that afternoon. And while making momos may seem like a simple enough task, it definitely isn’t! Especially the folding is a delicate job. In the end, we got some funny looking momo’s, but they tasted great anyway 🙂
Sightseeing and the best lassi
Kathmandu definitely is worth a visit when you’re in Nepal. It has so many cultural or religious sights, stupas, temples, and squares. We saw only a glimpse of this city so far, but it is so beautiful! The impressive Swaymbhunath temple (better known among tourists as the Monkey temple) definitely is worth a visit as is Durbar Square (although the damage done by the 2015 earthquake is still very visible). But the latter is kinda pricey (1500 NPR for one person) and there’re lots of people clinging onto you asking if you want a tour.
We walked a lot in Kathmandu. Which is possible to do, because lots of sights aren’t that far from each other. Besides that, it’s the best way to explore the busy streets of this bustling city and find the best shops and restaurants. On our way to Durbar square, we came across a small counter selling lassi (a yogurt drink which is very popular in Nepal). Govinda told us that this little shop sells the best lassi in the whole of Nepal, so of course, we had to try! And we must say, it is still the best lassi we’ve had so far. If you’re interested, it’s located about here.
After just three days in Kathmandu, it was time to move towards the west of Nepal, to Pokhara. A city that is mostly known for being the home base for people looking to explore the Annapurna mountain range. As we too were planning to head out to the mountains, we first had to go to Pokhara. You can get there by plane or bus, but we decided to fly for now, because we had only limited time before going on trekking.
When we got off the plane all of us breathe a sigh of relief. The air feels so clean in comparison to Kathmandu! But little did we know, our plans would change dramatically over the next couple of days… More on that in our next travel journal!